Quality Web Publishing Is About Saying No

    August 6, 2003

Are the people who have least to say in your organization publishing most on your intranet or public website? Are the people who have most to say publishing least? You’re not alone. Organizations are slowly realizing that managing a website is as much about what you don’t publish as what you do.

“You know, the groups and programs that we don’t want to push are doing lots of publishing on the intranet and public website. That’s because they’re trying to justify their existence.” This is a statement from a senior executive from a major organization. “Those groups and programs that we really want to promote, we can’t get them to publish enough. They’re too busy.”

Professional web publishing is not about getting lots of stuff up. It’s about getting the right stuff up. There’s a world of a difference between the two. Content can create value. Content can also destroy value. It can damage your reputation.

In late July, some major Irish media gave front page prominence to a made-up story. It was fabricated because there is a website where you can see how it was done. On the discussion area of this satirical website, people wondered if they could create a story that the media would publish.

So they made one up. Step-by-step they created a press release. They emailed it and waited. Ireland’s largest selling daily newspaper put this story on their front page. Other media did some rudimentary background research, found out it was fake, and did not publish. Which was the better publisher?

They say there’s a book inside everyone. There may be. However, it’s better for trees, world peace and mental health that the vast majority of these books stay unpublished. Some say there’s a website designer inside everyone. Give them FrontPage and Adobe and off they go.

Websites need to get back to basic principles. Websites that represent organizations should be organized in a coherent and consistent manner. They require strategies and objectives. They need to be measured. Somebody should be in charge. This is management A-B-C. It’s often missing.

Publishing A-B-C is missing too. Before anything is published, someone should ask these basic questions:

1) Is it necessary? This group or individual may just love to publish, but do they need to? Will the objectives of the organization be furthered if this content is published? Does the reader really need to see this? 2) Is it clear and complete? Clarity and completeness are essential. If the reader can’t understand what you’re writing, why are you writing it? Does the content address all the relevant points that need addressing?
3) Is there a simpler way to say this? Quality publishing is not a muscle-flexing contest. It’s not about how many big words you have. The great novelist, George Orwell, once wrote. “If you can use a simpler word, use it.”
4) If there a shorter way to say this? Practically every beginner writer starts off by pumping out the volume. Equally, the writer who has least to say tends to write most, hoping that their lack of a point can be hidden within the volume.

As a manager, trust your instincts. Do not let the technology or all that useless jargon sidetrack you. Focus on the fundamentals, because to run a professional website the fundamentals still need a lot of focusing on.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

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